Walking in the garden is one thing, creating that garden is a whole other. Not only is the art of gardening meditative, it’s healing, too.
The Benefits of Gardening for Mental Health
Gardening is a beautiful way to bring that grounding energy into our home. Whether we can sow seeds in an outdoor garden bed or create a makeshift garden in our kitchen windowsill, we can benefit greatly from planting seeds and growing crops.
“Gardens are unique, peaceful places that have healing belongings that work wonders under stress and burden,” says Aniko Dunn, a licensed Psy.D. at EZ Care Clinic, which specializes in stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health-related concerns. “Research strongly suggests that, if we spend time in a green environment, we will reduce stress and can improve confidence,” Dunn adds. Confidence is a key benefit of gardening.
According to Houseplant Authority founder Naomi Robinson, “the fact that you’re working on your plants now indicates that you have confidence in your ability to help them grow, meaning you are in turn focusing on future outcomes.” This focus on future outcomes and confidence produces a “real sense of optimism in people, especially when other parts of [their] lives may not be as optimistic at the moment,” Robinson explains.
In addition to boosting confidence, gardening can have impactful benefits on mental health. Here are some reasons to start a garden:
Helps Develop Patience“Gardening has enormous potential for people with defined mental health requirements, offering a much wider range of activities and options than other types of therapeutic activities,” says Dunn. And, some of those activities — okay, most of them — require a lot of patience. From watching seeds sprout to awaiting harvest season, gardening can help cultivate more patience.
According to Dunn, gardening is good for mental health because it can help protect against — or relieve — aggressors that wreak havoc on our minds (hello, stress). “Recent research has shown that people who spend more time in their gardens, or who do gardening activities such as watering plants, cleaning the garden, plowing the soil, and more are less likely to experience stress,” says Dunn.
“Anyone who has created a fruitful garden knows how great they are at blooming and cultivating their food,” says Dunn. “That confidence comes from your self-esteem, which grows exponentially as you watch your garden grow,” Dunn adds.
Spaces that surround you with plants and nature — such as gardens — can provide a lot of peace and opportunity for presence. According to Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Juan Santos, this in turn can give the mood a little boost.
Releases Emotional Pain
According to Santos, creating a garden “provides you with a therapeutic space” to take care of yourself and your mental well-being. Additionally, Santos says plants are great listeners and speaking to them might help release some emotional pain.
What We Can Learn From Planting Seeds
“No one plants seeds with the expectation of enjoying the outcomes tomorrow,” says Robinson. “Instead, you know that it will take time and care — and often some trial and error — to see them grow into the mature plants you want them to be,” she adds.
We can learn a lot from this aspect of gardening. “Working on something now in the hopes of benefiting from your efforts in the months or even years to come is something truly positive to take with you in other aspects of your life that you’re experiencing,” says Robinson. “This is especially the case if you’re prone to anxiety or negative thoughts about the future,” she adds.
Planting seeds now — literally and figuratively — and taking extra care to help them grow will allow you to “reap the rewards down the line,” says Robinson.
Grounding in the Garden
If you’re ready to ground in the garden and reap the healing benefits planting seeds has to offer, Robinson says a good first step is to “go to a local gardening center and talk to someone there about which plants tend to thrive in your local area.” Doing this will help prevent you from starting with any plants that are “too finicky,” she adds.
For those who are brand new to gardening and plant care, Robinson says to ask for “information on plants that are relatively easy to look after,” adding how herbs are a great starting point. “Nothing beats the taste of adding homegrown herbs to a dish and it’s the very definition of putting in some work now for a real benefit later on,” she explains.
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